- Laszlo Balogh/Reuters
After all, it can feel frustrating to get your body and your mind used to the regular workout grind after a long break.
Here are our top 13 tips for getting back into a fitness routine, so you won’t dread your workouts.
Get yourself new gear that you love.
One of the best ways to motivate yourself to work out happens long before you even lace up those sneakers. Finding workout clothes that you love and feel confident in will help get you excited to get back in the gym.
“If you upgrade your look – say, with a new pair of stylish workout pants – it really encourages you to go put them to work,” Jonathan Maxim, CEO of Vea Fitness, told Greatist. “New running shoes can help you want to at least go try them out, just like stylish yoga pants can inspire you to go sport them in class.”
If you’ve already got workout clothes you love, treating yourself to new sneakers, a new fitness app, or equipment is an equally great idea to get yourself pumped up for a new workout routine. Even a new workout playlist might be just the ticket.
Consider how much time you’ve been inactive and any possible limitations.
If you’re working out again after an injury or illness, you’ll want to take extra care to gently ease back into exercise. Similarly, if it’s been months or years since you’ve been regularly active, you’ll need to start very slowly.
“If you’ve been away for a few weeks, you might start back with the same activities you were doing before your break, just decrease the intensity,” personal trainer Elizabeth Brooks told the Washington Post. She recommended keeping things basic to start if you’ve taken a short break.
As always, you should consult with your doctor or a physical therapist, especially if you’re working with an injury, to ensure you’re being safe.
Start small — every little bit counts.
- Flickr / Luke Redmond
Plenty of people adopt an “all or nothing” attitude with fitness, but the truth is that every little bit counts. So you’ll want to start small – add just 10 minutes a day, or take little steps to be more active throughout the day. Easy ways to incorporate fitness into your daily routine include parking your car far away and getting in some extra steps, taking the stairs whenever possible, or going for a stroll after a meal.
“Doing too much too soon can overwhelm you mentally,” explained Barry’s Bootcamp trainer Kellie Sikorski, who told SELF magazine that taking on “a rigorous routine may eventually feel like too much to deal with, which in return make you feel defeated.”
“People have a tendency to overdo it initially, and they end up [with injuries] because the body is not prepared for the extra activity,” said physical therapist Karena Wu, so be gentle with yourself and your body as you get reacquainted with exercise.
Be sure to get enough sleep.
Just as you should schedule rest days and listen to your body when it comes to your workouts, you’ll also want to prioritize consistently getting enough sleep.
“Working out is ‘work’ – it takes more time and energy, so you might feel fatigued initially because you are burning more calories and the body is trying to adapt to the increased stresses in the tissues,” Wu told SELF. “If I’m so exhausted that I’m walking around like a zombie, I might opt for some more sleep on a particular day.”
Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals too close to bedtime, keeping your bedroom a comfortable temperature, and putting those devices away will help you get the restorative slumber your body needs to heal and refuel.
Make things as easy as possible for yourself.
If you’re just getting used to a regular workout routine, it can be easy to hit the snooze button and catch a few more z’s or meet up with pals for happy hour instead of getting your sweat on.
The good news is, there are so many simple tricks that will motivate you to work out. If you’re trying to work out in the early morning hours, setting your gym bag out the night before, programming your coffee machine, or making your breakfast smoothie so it’s all ready to go can jumpstart your workout routine.
Find what motivates you — which might be different than what used to.
If you used to be a marathon runner or an avid yoga enthusiast, you might be frustrated or surprised to find that those workouts just don’t do it for you anymore.
There’s a workout out there for everyone, whether you prefer joining a friend for a fitness class or going on a solo walk. Start out with something you enjoy and build on that in time. As Sikorski told Shape, an ideal workout routine will involve a solid balance of flexibility training, cardio, and strength training, but there are many different ways to incorporate those into a routine that works for you and makes you excited to sweat.
Try something new (within reason).
Even for people who love exercise, it’s all too easy for a workout routine to become just that – routine. Trying something new might be the best way to revive your fitness routine so you’ll actually look forward to working out.
If you’ve always been curious about indoor cycling or have been eyeing the weight room at your gym, give it a try. If you’re not sure what kind of workouts you’ll enjoy, take the plunge and try out something unexpected.
That said, safety should always be your top priority, so you should check in with your doctor before trying anything you’ve never tried before.
Be sure to add a warm-up and cool-down to every workout.
- Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images
Even if you’re ready to jump right back in, your body might not be, so you have to spend some time warming your body up before your workout and cooling down before you hit the shower to help your body return to its resting heart rate safely.
“Muscles that have not been accustomed to strenuous activity for some time will experience some form of [delayed onset muscle soreness], which basically means you are going to be tight and achy for 24 to 72 hours after your workout,” according to Sikorski, who recommends stretching before and after every workout to help protect muscles and joints, as well as prevent that dreaded next-day soreness.
Focus first on your form.
- Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
So you’re eager to get back into it – that’s great, but if you’re not accustomed to physical activity (and even if you are), you can seriously injure yourself if you aren’t doing moves correctly.
“Slow down,” Sikorski advised, adding to SELF that you must “be deliberate and conscious of your movements. Take the time to focus on your form, on your breathing, on your control.”
If you’re working with an instructor or trainer, whether one-on-one or in a group setting, have them check your form. If you’re using new equipment or trying a new activity, be sure to take a beat to master proper form.
When you’ve got a routine that works, schedule rest days and stick to them.
- Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
Even trained athletes schedule regular rest days, so you must, too. It might feel like you’re delaying your progress or slowing down your gains, but taking time to get enough rest is crucial for anyone, no matter your fitness level.
“When you take a day off, your body isn’t. It’s actually working very hard to repair and replenish itself after all the work you put it through,” Sikorski told SELF. “Rest days are key to long-term wellness. This is a lifestyle you’re creating now, so be realistic about your frequency.”
That doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed all day if you don’t want to, but being extra gentle by adding in an easy stroll or light yoga is a good way to stay active without taxing your body and allowing it to recover and prepare you for the days or weeks ahead.
Listen to your body at all times.
A little soreness or fatigue after a new workout is normal, but if you’re in any sort of actual pain, stop immediately. Do not push through anything that feels painful.
“One of the biggest signs that you might not be ready to return to working out is if you’re experiencing a lot of pain – unrelated to regular muscle soreness,” Dr. Michael Perry, cofounder and chief medical director of the Laser Spine Institute, told Greatist. “If a certain action or activity hurts, stop doing it immediately. The pain is your body’s way of telling you ‘not yet.'”
Be sure to adequately fuel your body.
- Lauren Schumacker/INSIDER
You might notice that when your body is acclimating itself to working out again that you’re suddenly hungrier more often or craving different foods. Don’t ignore that hunger or restrict your eating – your body needs to be adequately fueled to accommodate the extra activity.
When it comes to post-workout snacks, opt for protein and healthy carbohydrates.
For example, nutritionist Beth Warren previously told INSIDER, “Eggs and toast help you recover quickly. It’s a snack combined with protein (to rebuild muscles) and healthy carbs (to restock your energy stores).”
Do it for yourself.
There are a lot of messages on social media and in advertisements that promise a happier life if you were just this much thinner or more toned, but your happiest, healthiest life doesn’t exist in a particular pants size or body type.
If you want to work out again after a break, do it to prioritize yourself and your own health, and not for anyone or anything else. “I always say, ‘Don’t work out for anyone else but you,'” personal trainer Emily Skye told Women’s Running.”Being fit and healthy should be about making yourself feel great, having confidence, and aiming to be your best.”
She added, “Remember to do this for you, not for anyone else or for how they think you should look. Each time you exercise, know that you have done something good for yourself and celebrate that.”
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